Travelin’ Prayers

On Thursday night at Home Community, the conversation used four questions to sort thru Hebrews 9 and finally ended with comments about the ritual nature of faith, and how that piece can become too great in some churches but is a bit lost in other.  A few people around me pondered the idea of confessionals among couples and what would truly happen if you admitted your faults, your sins, your hidden screw ups in front of another person.  One married man admitted that nothing would happen, his wife would not suddenly abandon him, but that pride and vanity get in the way.  At this last comment heads around the room began to nod as we all admitted silently that with our closest friends and family members, there is no real danger in truth.  It is just with the person in the mirror that we have troubles.  As I left that evening, hoping for the sleep that I had been a bit short on all week, I kept thinking about confessions and what you can and cannot admit to the world.

Now my writing today is not about some great sin; sorry, you have to have a real in person conversation with me to get that kind of dirt.  Instead I found the topics of prayer and confession winding together in my mind this weekend, in part because I do not pray well.

Now, when it comes to hoping a light will turn green, a lost sock will reappear, a student will pass an exam, an illness will heal, I’m just dandy at prayer.  After a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies, I know many many big, scriptural words and have the sound doctrine and exegesis to back it up (see, big words).  Yet outside of emergencies, I find myself talking to the ceiling for a moment or too and then wandering off in search of cookie, literally or figuratively.  When we are praying at church, I have to fight to not mentally drift to a to do list, to not keep my eyelids closed too long, or (if my eyes are open) to not wonder where someone got a cute sweater.  When I was a child, I assumed all the grown ups around me were somehow at peace in their stillness, but now I’m coming up short.

The difference comes when my body is at motion, then I can somehow put my mind to rest.  This last week, after a difficult experience, I was driving home and asking God to please change the situation, to give me what my heart so obviously desired.  My eyes were on the road, hands and ten and two, but my mind and heart were crying out as though in chapel.  As I turned a corner, somehow the prayer turned as well.  Instead of asking God for what I wanted, I asked Him to want what He wants.  He knows my heart already, and has His reasons for not answering right now, so I asked for a new want, a new need, a new prayer; one that would bring Him glory and me shalom.  As I ran a final lap yesterday morning, I had the same experience.  I jogged slowly across a frosty bridge and prayed for a friend, that he would get a new job, be at “home” after some transitions, and feel surrounded by love.  At the top of a short hill, the prayer again shifted and expanded to friends of this friend, strangers to me and asking that they would support him in ways I cannot.

I’m not completely sure of the point of this post, but had to get the words that had been bumping around my head for a few days out onto paper.  Maybe it is just to confess that there is a reason my foot might be tapping, leg shifting, and fingers dancing during prayer at church.  I’m trying to move enough to slow down.  No, it doesn’t make sense to me either but I’m sure it makes God smile.

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